Thursday Nov 08, 2012

Recent Innovations to ILOM

by Josh Rosen

If you are wondering how Oracle can make some of the most advanced, reliable, and fault tolerant servers on the market, look no further than Oracle Integrated Lights Out Manager or ILOM.  We build ILOM into every server we create, from Oracle x86 Systems such as X3-2 to the SPARC T-Series family.

Oracle ILOM is an embedded service processor, but it's really more than that.  It's a computer within a computer.  It's smart, it's tightly integrated into all aspects of the server's operation, and it's a big reason why Oracle servers are used for some of the most mission-critical workloads out there.

To understand the value of ILOM, there is no better place to start than its fault management capability.  We have taken the sophisticated fault management architecture from Solaris, developed and refined over a decade, and built it into each and every ILOM. ILOM detects a potential issue at its earliest stage, watching low-level sensors.   If the root cause of a problem is not clear from a single error reading, ILOM will look for other clues and combine multiple pieces of information to correctly identify a failing component.

ILOM provides peace of mind. We tailor our fault management for each new server platform that we produce.  You can rest assured that it's always actively keeping the server healthy.  And if there is a problem, you can be confident it will let you know by sending you a notification by e-mail or trap.

We also heard IT managers tell us they needed a Ph.D. in computer engineering to manage today's servers. It doesn't have to be that way.  Thanks to the latest innovations to Oracle ILOM, we present hardware inventory and status in way that makes sense – to anyone.  Green means everything is healthy and red means something is wrong.  When a component needs to be replaced a clear message indicates where the problem is and points you at a knowledge article about that problem.  It's that simple.


Simpler management and simple interfaces mean reduced complexity and lower costs to manage.  And we know that's really important.

ILOM does all this while also providing advanced service processor features you depend on for managing enterprise class systems.  You can remotely control the server power, interact with a virtual video console for the server, and mount media on the server remotely.  There is no need to spend money on a KVM switch to get this functionality.

And when people hear how advanced ILOM is, they can't believe ILOM is free.  All features are enabled and included with each Oracle server that you buy.  There are no advanced licenses you need to purchase or features to unlock.

Configuring ILOM has also never been easier.  It is now possible to configure almost all aspects of the server directly from ILOM.  This includes changing BIOS settings, persistently modifying boot order, and optimizing power settings -- all directly from ILOM.

But Oracle's innovation does not stop with ILOM.  Oracle has engineered Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Center to integrate directly with ILOM, providing centralized management across all of our servers. Ops Center will discover each of your Oracle servers over the network by searching for ILOMs.  When it finds one, it knows how to communicate with ILOM to monitoring and configure that server from application to disk.

Since every server that Oracle produces, from x86 Systems to SPARC T-Series up and down the line, comes with Oracle ILOM, you can manage all Oracle servers in the same way.  And while all of our servers may have different components on the inside, each with their specialized functions, the way you integrate them and the way you monitor and manage them is exactly the same.

Oracle ILOM is state-of-art.  If you are looking for a server that make systems management simple and is easy to integrate and maintain, check out the latest advances to Oracle ILOM.

Josh Rosen is a Principal Product Manager at Oracle and previously spent more than a decade as a developer and architect of system management software. Josh has worked on system management for many of Oracle's hardware products ranging from the earliest blade systems to the latest Oracle x86 servers.

Thursday Sep 27, 2012

SPARC Servers at Oracle OpenWorld

SPARC Server Sessions at OpenWorld

There is plenty to learn about the SPARC servers at the Oracle OpenWorld. The SPARC server sessions offer depth and breadth in content selection to satisfy everyone's need from the one who is technically oriented to the one who would like to understand more about the business value of SPARC technology. And, there is always more. Keynotes, Oracle innovations and many product demonstrations are only a few of many other opportunities to interact with the product experts and executives to establish greater insight to the Oracle SPARC technology.

The Oracle SPARC Servers

Oracle's SPARC servers running Oracle Solaris are ideal for mission-critical applications that require high performance, best-in-class availability, and unmatched scalability on all application tiers.

With a robust roadmap, Oracle assures the highest levels of investment protection through 100% SPARC/Solaris binary compatibility, proven by hundreds of thousands of deployments over more than 20 year. 

Monday Sep 24, 2012

Unleash the Power of Cryptography on SPARC T4

by Rob Ludeman

Oracle’s SPARC T4 systems are architected to deliver enhanced value for customer via the inclusion of many integrated features.  One of the best examples of this approach is demonstrated in the on-chip cryptographic support that delivers wire speed encryption capabilities without any impact to application performance. 

The Evolution of SPARC Encryption

SPARC T-Series systems have a long history of providing this capability, dating back to the release of the first T2000 systems that featured support for on-chip RSA encryption directly in the UltraSPARC T1 processor.  Successive generations have built on this approach by support for additional encryption ciphers that are tightly coupled with the Oracle Solaris 10 and Solaris 11 encryption framework.  While earlier versions of this technology were implemented using co-processors, the SPARC T4 was redesigned with new crypto instructions to eliminate some of the performance overhead associated with the former approach, resulting in much higher performance for encrypted workloads.

The Superiority of the SPARC T4 Approach to Crypto

As companies continue to engage in more and more e-commerce, the need to provide greater degrees of security for these transactions is more critical than ever before.  Traditional methods of securing data in transit by applications have a number of drawbacks that are addressed by the SPARC T4 cryptographic approach.

SPARC T4 Eextends On-Chip Cryptography leadership

1. Performance degradation – cryptography is highly compute intensive and therefore, there is a significant cost when using other architectures without embedded crypto functionality.  This performance penalty impacts the entire system, slowing down performance of web servers (SSL), for example, and potentially bogging down the speed of other business applications.  The SPARC T4 processor enables customers to deliver high levels of security to internal and external customers while not incurring an impact to overall SLAs in their IT environment.

2. Added cost – one of the methods to avoid performance degradation is the addition of add-in cryptographic accelerator cards or external offload engines in other systems.  While these solutions provide a brute force mechanism to avoid the problem of slower system performance, it usually comes at an added cost.  Customers looking to encrypt datacenter traffic without the overhead and expenditure of extra hardware can rely on SPARC T4 systems to deliver the performance necessary without the need to purchase other hardware or add-on cards.

3. Higher complexity – the addition of cryptographic cards or leveraging load balancers to perform encryption tasks results in added complexity from a management standpoint.  With SPARC T4, encryption keys and the framework built into Solaris 10 and 11 means that administrators generally don’t need to spend extra cycles determining how to perform cryptographic functions.  In fact, many of the instructions are built-in and require no user intervention to be utilized.  For example, For OpenSSL on Solaris 11, SPARC T4 crypto is available directly with a new built-in OpenSSL 1.0 engine, called the "t4 engine."  For a deeper technical dive into the new instructions included in SPARC T4, consult Dan Anderson’s blog.

SPARC T4 Eextends On-Chip Cryptography leadership


In summary, SPARC T4 systems offer customers much more value for applications than just increased performance. The integration of key virtualization technologies, embedded encryption, and a true Enterprise Operating System, Oracle Solaris, provides direct business benefits that supersedes the commodity approach to data center computing.  

SPARC T4 removes the roadblocks to secure computing by offering integrated crypto accelerators that can save IT organizations in operating cost while delivering higher levels of performance and meeting objectives around compliance.

For more on the SPARC T4 family of products, go to here.

Sunday Sep 02, 2012

Introducing Oracle System Assistant

by Josh Rosen

One of the challenges with today's servers is getting the server up and running and understanding what all of the steps are once you plug the server in for the first time.

So many different pieces come into play: installing drivers, updating firmware, configuring RAID, and provisioning the operating system. All of these steps must be done before you can even start using the server.

Finding the latest firmware and drivers, making sure you have the right versions, and knowing that all the different software and firmware components work together properly can be a real challenge. If not done correctly, such as if you separately download disk firmware or controller firmware that doesn't match the existing OS drivers, you could experience bugs, performance problems, and incompatibilities. Gone are the days of having to locate the tools and drivers media that shipped with the server only to find out that newer versions of software and firmware are available on the web.

Oracle has solved these challenges in the new X3-2 family of servers by introducing Oracle System Assistant. Oracle System Assistant is an innovative tool that is built-in to every new x86 server. It provides step-by-step assistance with configuring the server, updating firmware and drivers, and provisioning the operating system. Once you have completed all of the steps in the Oracle System Assistant tool, the server is ready to use. Oracle System Assistant

Oracle System Assistant was designed to be easy and straightforward. Starting it is as simple as pressing F9 when the server is booting. You'll need a keyboard, monitor, and mouse or you can use the remote console feature of Oracle ILOM (Integrated Lights Out Manager) to access a virtual KVM to the server from any machine. From there Oracle System Assistant will walk you through each of the steps necessary to set up your server.

After configuring the network settings for Oracle System Assistant, the next step is to check for any new software or firmware for the server. Oracle System Assistant connects back to Oracle using your My Oracle Support account and downloads any updates that were made available to you for this specific server.

This is where you really start to see the innovation that went into Oracle System Assistant. Firmware for Oracle ILOM and BIOS, operating system drivers, and other system firmware (including for option cards and disk drivers) come as a single bundle, downloading as a single unit, that has been engineered and tested to work together by Oracle. Oracle System Assistant figures out the right combination for your server, so you don't have to.
Now that the server has the latest firmware, Oracle System Assistant will next walk you through configuring the hardware. From Oracle System Assistant, you can configure many Oracle ILOM settings, including the network settings and initial user accounts. This ensures that ILOM is accessible and ready to use.
OSA ScreenshotOracle System Assistant is where all parts of the server come together. In addition to communicating with Oracle ILOM and interacting with BIOS, Oracle System Assistant understands and can configure the storage subsystem. Before installing the operating system, Oracle System Assistant can detect the storage configuration and configure RAID for all disks in the system.

At this point, the server is ready to be provisioned with the host operating system. You can use Oracle System Assistant to provision a supported OS, including Oracle Linux, Oracle VM, RHEL, SuSe Linux, and Windows. And by using Oracle System Assistant, you can be sure that the proper OS drivers are installed for each of the installed hardware components.

With Oracle System Assistant, initial setup of the server has never been easier. If we can innovate around problems and find solutions to make our servers easier to manage, this reduces IT costs and makes managing servers simpler. I think with Oracle System Assistant we have done just that.

Josh Rosen is a Principal Product Manager at Oracle and previously spent more than a decade as a developer and architect of system management software. Josh has worked on system management for many of Oracle's hardware products ranging from the earliest blade systems to the latest Oracle x86 servers.


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